Meriden council votes to settle police use-of-force lawsuit

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MERIDEN — The City Council on Tuesday agreed to settle a resident’s federal lawsuit filed in 2019 against the city, its former police chief and multiple police officers alleging officers used excessive force while carrying out an arrest in 2018. 

City resident Jose Negron filed his suit against former Police Chief Jeffry Cossette and 12 individual Meriden police officers, in 2019, approximately a year after the incident, which according to the complaint occurred in September 2018. 

According to a description in Negron’s complaint, the incident occurred following a disagreement that erupted among several guests at a gathering that was held at Negron’s Hillside Avenue home on the night of Sept. 2, 2018. 

The defendants denied the allegations, according to subsequent legal filings by the city’s outside legal counsel, attorney Richard A. Roberts of Cheshire.

As of this story, public records requests the Record-Journal submitted to the city for police reports and video footage related to the incident were still pending. 

It is not clear whether city police ever filed charges against Negron related to the gathering, according to a Record-Journal review of state judicial records. 

Local law enforcement officials as well as Negron’s attorney, George G. Mowad II of Waterbury, declined comment for this story. 

One of the defendant officers had been driving near Hillside Avenue that night and "noticed the escalating altercation," according to the complaint, which stated none of the individuals involved in the altercation resided there. 

Other officers would soon respond after the first officer requested assistance, according to the complaint.

The complaint stated officers and Negron, the plaintiff, attempted to diffuse the situation by asking those who did not reside at the premises to leave. 

The complaint states the situation was immediately defused. It then claims Negron "was on his own front porch directing his family to go inside of their home" when one of the officers "inexplicably without provocation, attacked the Plaintiff." The suit claimed that Negron hadn't acted in a way that would cause such a reaction. 

The suit claimed other officers joined in, grabbed Negron and "restrained his hands behind his back" while he was still standing on his porch. 

The complaint stated the officers then dragged Negron down the steps of his porch while his hands were restrained. Officers subsequently stood Negron up on the grass near the porch, and one of them kicked Negron's right knee, causing the plaintiff to fall to the ground face down, according to the complaint. 

The complaint stated the other officers who witnessed the use of force neither attempted to "help the plaintiff... or prevent the unprovoked and unnecessary use of excessive force." The suit states that officers handcuffed the plaintiff as he "was laying on the ground writhing in pain."

Officers called for an ambulance after realizing Negron had suffered a serious leg injury as a result, according to the complaint. He was transported to MidState Medical Center, where he was diagnosed with a fully dislocated right knee and underwent emergency surgery, as a result of the injury, the complaint stated further. 

The complaint stated Negron suffered "numerous" injuries to his right leg, not limited to the dislocation of the knee, which had resulted "in a permanent and debilitating injury." The suit claimed Negron suffered and continues to suffer psychological trauma, including "fear of" police, as a result of officers' actions. 

The complaint claimed officers' actions violated Negron's federal and state constitutional rights, and accused officers of assault and battery under Connecticut law, in addition to false arrest for taking him "into custody against his will and without authority."

Negron’s complaint alleged the city's former police chief was liable for the violations because he had "tolerated, condoned, encouraged and/or was deliberately indifferent to the use of excessive force in an unreasonable manner, failed to adequately train and provide guidelines with regard to the use of excessive force in a manner that could foreseeably lead to the violation of citizen's rights and created an atmosphere and culture in which such treatment of citizens is tolerated and/or fostered."

The lawsuit also claimed the city was liable for officers' negligent conduct, because the actions occurred while officers were on duty, according to legal filings. 

Negron’s complaint stated as a result of officers’ conduct he suffered severe physical and emotional distress. It claimed that officers acted with deliberate indifference with regard to his rights, safety and wellbeing. 

The suit lists 13 separate counts, in which it cites the officers for failing to intervene, and faults the department's former leadership and the city for having an "inadequate policy" that demonstrated indifference to the rights of citizens and city residents. 

The suit sought unspecified monetary damages, including compensatory and actual damages, punitive damages, and compensation for the plaintiff's legal fees.  

On Tuesday night, the council authorized Roberts to enter into a settlement pursuant to terms that were discussed by the council during closed door executive session. The council’s vote regarding the settlement was seven to three, with councilors Dan Brunet, Ray Ouellet and Bob Williams Jr. voting against it. 

Details of that settlement, including financial terms, were not available on Thursday. Updated legal filings showed federal court Judge Donna F. Martinez signed orders declaring the case as having been settled, and dismissed. 



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